Main and embedded clausal asymmetry in the history of English: Changes in assertive and non-assertive complements

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In this paper, I sketch the CP layer in main and embedded clauses in the history of English. The Modern English main clause is not as easily expandable as the Old English one, but the reverse is true in the subordinate clause, where Modern English has a more flexible embedded CP than Old English. I focus on the developments of the embedded CP. It has been claimed that Old English lacks an embedded split CP and therefore lacks embedded V2 and a host of other embedded root phenomena. I show this to be true for complements to both assertive and non-assertive verbs. In contrast, the Modern English matrix verb has an effect on the strength of the C-position. Assertive verbs in Modern English allow main clause phenomena in subordinate clauses whereas non-assertives typically do not. The main point of the paper is to chronicle the changes that 'stretch' the embedded clause and the changing role of main verbs. It is descriptive rather than explanatory, e.g., in terms of changes in phase-head status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-140
Number of pages23
JournalLinguistic Variation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 24 2019



  • Assertive and non-assertives
  • Complementizers
  • Root phenomena
  • Split CP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science

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